Advice I wish I was told as a freshman

Katarina Rothhorn, Editor-in-chief

Someone, likely a parent or counselor figure who has not been a college student in over 20 years, has probably given you some advice already about how to survive your undergraduate experience. This advice might range from using a planner to keep track of all your assignments to getting enough sleep to the best ‘studying hacks,’ but the problem is that not all advice is as universal as we sometimes like to think it is. What worked for your older cousin might not work for you and college is the ideal location to explore those routines, social situations and working environments that set you up for success. 

Tip #1: Success does not mean you get it right the first time. Success, in my mind, is an incredibly messy and exploratory process with a ridiculous number of ‘mistakes’ along the way. When I am setting myself up for success, I am also setting myself up to ‘fail’ since success is ultimately a continuous process facilitated by my reflection on past experiences and mistakes. 

As a recovering perfectionist, this can be hard to wrestle with at first since I want to believe that with enough preparation and overthinking, I can get everything done perfectly the first time. However, making mistakes is ultimately inevitable. Despite my hyper-organized planner and calendar system, I will still forget to input an important meeting that I scheduled last minute. In dealing with the after-effects of missing that meeting, I will be able to re-evaluate my organizational system and come up with a different plan that fits my hectic life of scheduling meetings last minute via email a little better. It is never perfect and it takes time, but by being willing to adjust your systems and habits I think you will discover your systems evolving for the better over time, providing you with more trustworthy patterns when you graduate.

Tip #2: Go easy on yourself. College is hard and beating yourself up over every little thing is not only exhausting, but also a great way to feel unmotivated. By allowing myself to be human and imperfect, the stressors of classes, adulting responsibilities and social commitments feel less suffocating. It is okay to drop that class. It is okay to not feel proud of the work you turn in. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and unprepared. As long as you keep checking in with yourself, monitor your reactions to your environment and make small adjustments to improve your health (physical, mental, emotional and academic) you are doing great. 

Tip #3: Take the leap — talk to that person, go to that event, try that new terrifying thing. You’ve probably heard this at every introduction to college event, but getting out there is the best way to feel connected to campus. Those connections, whether it is to another person, organization or project, are what help create a balance between classes and personal life. When you live at or near your university and are constantly in a collegiate mindset, having other commitments and fun opportunities are necessary for avoiding burnout. Even if it feels overwhelming to tackle extracurriculars, make new friends and start college classes all at the same time, it is so worth it to find a balance between them all now. 

Tip #4: Go for a hike. There are so many great places to get out in the woods around Marquette and asking people to join you for a weekend hike is a fantastic way to meet new people. One of my favorite spots to hike is Wetmore Landing, but Sugarloaf and Hogsback are classics as well. The U.P. is the ideal place for forest bathing, the practice of walking in natural areas to improve mental health and overall wellbeing, and we would be remiss to not savor every aspect of it we can. I find a walk along the perimeter of Presque Isle during my three-hour break between classes to be the perfect way to reset my stress levels and take a mental break. If you need any more reasons to get outdoors as much as possible, just take a look at the changing leaves in the upcoming weeks and tell me you don’t want to walk along Lake Superior’s gorgeous blue shoreline with red and gold confetti drifting down around you. If you don’t fall in love with that feeling, I’m not sure what to tell you.

Tip #5: Broaden your horizons (aka don’t just stay on NMU’s campus). As students, I feel we sometimes get stuck in the bubble of campus life and only venture onto Third Street to grab a bagel or a crepe before going back to the dorms. Not only are there wonderful festivals and events downtown throughout the year, but local organizations are a great way to stay connected with the Marquette community as well. The farmers’ market is also a fantastic place to grab breakfast on Saturday mornings and support local artists and farmers. There is always something to do and ways to give back to the wider community. When I got involved with a Marquette community organization, I not only attended events I would have never known existed, but I also felt a sense of connection to Marquette — not just NMU. That connection is what will keep me coming back to the city and has helped give me a more holistic undergraduate experience.